Sunday, September 30, 2012

Day 5.264: Technology in Slingerlands?

I had no plans to attend the opening day of Shop Rite in Slingerlands until one of my readers contacted me to do so late this afternoon.  Well...OK, if the readers demand it, what can I do?

So I made my way over to the Vista Technology Campus (perhaps they should just change the name to avoid further embarrassment?) where Shop Rite were opening their doors on their third store in the region.  I expected to go over there, take a few photos, admire the buzz of opening day and write something nice about the store - after all, you can always find something nice to say about a brand new store.

However, I failed at the second step.  As I was taking an interior shot - just because I like to accompany my words with a relevant picture - I was pounced on by one of the many staff who were standing around (there were also many working the counters and registers to achieve an impressive flow of opening-day shoppers through the store, but there were a lot also standing around) who informed me that I wasn't allowed to take photographs in the store.

Now, this is not a public place and the owners or operators are within their rights to set such a rule, so I merely expressed surprise and explained why I wanted a photograph.  Perhaps sensing a PR blunder, the staff-member then asked to wait while a manager was called over so that permission could be sought.

The manager was very polite and accommodating, he told me I could take a general scene inside for my post and asked if there was anything else I particularly wanted to photograph so he could approve it.  If that had been the total conversation, I might have thought nothing more of it, but he also tried to explain the policy and that was less successful.  First he told me that there was a legal restriction because of the people in the photograph.  I explained my understanding of the law - that for reporting purposes I needed no releases and that if I did, that was for me to worry about.  He explained that the store could be liable for some kind of invasion of privacy...vagueness...then he dropped it and took another tack.  There were commercial reasons - I might work for a competitor and want to photograph prices etc. - OK, that's valid, except that the store has online shopping, so why would any competitor want to send a guy with a camera around the store - and if they did what could Shop Rite expect to lose?

I'm being harsh - I know - but it always annoys me when people lie to me or spin a guess into a fact to try to get rid of me or shut me up.  He could have said, "It's our policy. I'm not sure why."  He did not have to explain it to me - I never suggested that they could not ask me to stop, I just expressed some surprise at the restriction.

Hopefully we will do some shopping there soon and I can report on some exciting finds.  I noticed some interesting gluten-free items and a better-than-average beer selection.  I look forward to seeing what they have in the way of dairy-free too - we are a challenging family when it comes to grocery shopping.  For now, however, I am left musing on the technology restrictions in the technology park.

Full disclosure: I received a small free sample of cake that was available to all shoppers today.  It was tasty.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Day 5.263: A farm surprise

We sometimes visit Delmar Farmers Market on a Saturday morning. Today we did not.

Instead, we had a brief but excellent visit to an actual farm. Hiding on the boundary of the Delmar and Glenmont zip code areas, in amongst the suburban neighborhoods of the town of Bethlehem, not far from the middle school where the farmers market is held and the cemetery is the unlikely location of Kleinke's Farm where we correctly surmised we would be able to pick up some fall decorating materials.  We were more surprised to discover that we could also see a peacock and an alpaca and could probably have done a week's produce shopping too.

I don't know for sure how much is their own produce and how much comes from elsewhere, but I can tell you that we had a very nice visit and drove home with some excellent things and a smile on our faces.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Day 5.262: Woodlouse hunter hunter

It seems that this spider that Exile #4 found in her bedroom the other day is probably
Dysdera crocata, the woodlouse spider. Wikipedia states:

They have been known to bite humans if handled. Their bite can be painful but the venom causes no major medical problems.

Very comforting!  (This one was safely removed from the house.)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Day 5.261: At the --- house

It was the school open-house today. It reminded me that E5N1 used to call all all buildings 'house' a few years ago. Then he started qualifying them. We still use "food house" in place of restaurant. Somehow it seems more appropriate as a catch all that includes McDonalds and fine-dining establishments.

We managed to get around all three classrooms and see the first bits of work from the kids.

Here is one item from each of them.

Fascinating to see Exile #4's bold England and Exile #3's singling out of the wedding as her summer activity, hiking as a thing she likes and choosing her classmate from Reception (aged 4) back in the UK as "a special friend".

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Day 5.260: A powerful day out

The kids had the day off school for Yom Kippur today. I was feeling under the weather as the afternoon came around yesterday so I decided to take today off and spend it with them.

The weather forecast made me second-guess my decision a bit - but it turned out to be an excellent day all around.

We'd been considering a visit to the Blenheim-Gilboa power project for some time.  It made the news a little over a year ago when there were fears that the dam would not be able to cope with the flood waters from Tropical Storm Irene but, as it turned out, although the dam held, the water that was falling from the sky was enough to cause terrible flooding in the Schoharie valley without any help from the reservoir water.

In any case, we were there under happier circumstances today to walk in the early autumn countryside and find out about this forty-something year-old power storage facility.

Our visit started with a walk from the power-project's visitor center parking lot to the edge of nearby Mine Kill State Park and back.  The leaves are really starting to turn and fall - quite a surprise after our hike in the verdant Berkshires a few days ago.

The rain held off (although it was threatening).  We saw some signs of fall, and a few remnants of summer as we walked.

After our return, we looked around the excellent visitors center where we saw how much effort is required to make the electricity required for some simple appliances using a stationary bicycle (Exile #3 just briefly managed to make enough to light a 60 W bulb.

We also found out a lot about the power project from the displays and a short film that the attendant put on just for us in a theater on the lower level.  The plant consists of two reservoirs - one formed by damming the Schoharie Creek and the other, completely man-made, on the top of a nearby hill.  At low-demand times, cheap electricity is used to pump water 1000 feet up pipes in the hillside to the upper reservoir.  When demand is high, or there is a problem with another power station on the grid, the process can be reversed in a matter of a couple of minutes to allow the five billion gallons of water back down, turning the generators to make over a million kilowatts of electricity to meet the short-term demand.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Day 5.259: Got it covered

The other day, Exile #3 let us know that her (huge) math book needed to be covered. There are products specially designed for the purpose and traditional solutions such as brown paper shopping bags. We didn't have either but then I remembered what I used to cover my textbooks with and that we had a roll in the basement.

Wallpaper. And not just any wallpaper. This wallpaper:

It's what we recently removed from the kitchen walls. Although it looked less nice in its well worn state.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Day 5.258: Monument Mountain

On Saturday morning, with the forecast indicating a changeable afternoon and evening we decided to get up and out early to enjoy the first hours of autumn (it started just before 11 am).

We decided on another of the Trustees of Reservations properties in the Berkshires. Monument Mountain is about an hour from Albany and could be our favourite day-hike from our five years and 258 days in the region (and we have done quite a few!).

Our loop - up the Hickey Trail (yes really), along the Squaw Peak Trail and back along part of the Indian Monument Trail was about 2.5 miles and took us as many hours.

The trail was steep and rugged - climbing through beautiful forest, past surprising rocky outcrops, up natural and human-assisted rock stairs and on log-bridges over streams.

Exile #3 spotted this corkscrewing vine.  Further up, there were some tantalising glimpses of views on the way up, but we needn't have tried too hard to see these because a short side trail up another steep trail took us up to Devil's Pulpit where the views were stunning and the trail became precarious enough to recall the sign warning us to keep an eye on the children!

The view from Devil's Pulpit:

The Exiles at the summit:

We didn't find out why it is called Monument Mountain, but there is a monument of sorts - commemorating the donation of the land to its current stewards.

It reads:

This ridge and the cliffs of Monument Mountain were conveyed to the Trustees of Public Reservations by deed bearing date October 19 AD 1899 in fulfilment of a wish of Rosalie Butler that such portions of this mountain might be preserved to the people of Berkshire as a place of free enjoyment for all time.
Well, it may only be 113 years later, and so some way short of 'all time', but I can confirm that we enjoyed it immensely.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Day 5.257: Right at home

Two years ago, I wrote about the culture shock of attending the Fall Picnic at the local elementary school that Exile #3 and Exile #4 had just started attending.

This is what it looked like.

Today, we were back at the same event. This time, all three of the kids are students there and pretty much went off to do their own thing as soon as we arrived. Exile #2 is on the PTA committee and knows almost everyone and I was soon flipping burgers (after a spell as the - irony not lost on me - cheese-guy) at the grill.  Large social events are not our favourite thing, but we had a good time.

As a result of all the activity, I didn't take any photos, but it looked much like it did two years ago - except for the kids who seem to have changed rather a lot!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Day 5.256: Some translation required

The equinox arrived and brought with it the end of summer just after 10:40 this morning.  At that time we were driving into Massachusetts to visit another of the reservations cared for by The Trustees of Reservations (still a terrible name). It was a really great place and we had an excellent hike.  The first of fall/autumn (pretty much to the minute!)

I'll tell you about it tomorrow (or the next day) I promise. For now, here is the sign that greeted us when we arrived. I was amazed how much of it I needed to translate for the kids (especially the one who needed to hear it the most):

Here is my E5N1-friendly glossary:

hazardous = dangerous
exercise caution = take care
exercise sound judgment = make good choices
fun = FUN!

In fact, he did manage to injure himself, but not in a life-threatening way and scare his parents, but not in a injury-causing way, so 'safe' may be a bit of stretch, but we did all have FUN!

(sorry for all the parentheses in this post)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Day 5.255: Cookie...time?

A year ago (give or take a day) I ran my first road race. Today I had the chance to see what a year of running has done for me - answer: I'm a lot faster over 3.1 miles!

I got home to story-time and when I wearily finished eating some chili, I was presented with this:

decorated for me by Exile #3 during a post-school play-date with one of Exile #4's friends.  Here are some more of their creations (long gone by the time I made it home!)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Day 5.254: Sink, somersault, she, sky, snake

I try not to do too much proud-parent stuff, but today I'll make an exception - with a side serving of "whaaaat?"  This was one of E5N1's suggested 'homework' activities: draw/write five things beginning with "S".

He asked Exile #2 for help with how to write the end of "somersault", but otherwise it was his own work.  I love the picture accompanying that word and the one bit of colour - required for sky evidently - and who thinks of "she" when looking for "s" words...?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Day 5.253: Making myself smile

I'm tired and grumpy. My PC is giving me problems and I just want to be asleep.

Still...this makes me smile!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Day 5.252: The whale and the aeroplanes

When I was a student in Oxford I became aware of a band from Bristol called The Blue Aeroplanes. Some of my friends saw them play live at a music venue I was later to play with my band a couple of times, but it was before I started going to such gigs with them. Later we would frequent another venue to see an unknown local band called Radiohead, but that is another story.

The Blue Aeroplanes, at the time were a large collective - sometimes as many as four guitarists, a keyboard player, drummer and a dancer (credited even on the recordings) collected around a beat-poet called Gerard Langley. When asked why he formed a band rather than recite his poetry he is reported to have said, "Have you ever been to a poetry recital?"

Anyway, it was around the time that I narrowly missed seeing them in Oxford that, at the height of their popularity, they released an album, "Swagger" and on it, one of my favourite tracks was "The Applicant":

It was some time later that I discovered, that these words were not Gerard's own work, but a poem by Sylvia Plath (here she is reciting it herself if you're interested). A few years on, while sharing this music, I found out more about Ms Plath thanks to an English Literature student I was dating (that's Exile #2 to you).  I heard about her marriage to Ted Hughes, suicide and the fall-out where many blamed him for her death.

I had heard of him, but I had no idea that I had any real experience of Ted Hughes' work.

A couple of weeks ago, out of the blue, I remembered some stories I had liked as a child - I thought of them at the dinner table and wondered if it might be something our kids would like.  Much to my surprise, it turns out that this book "How the Whale Became and Other Stories" is by no other than Ted Hughes.

Exile #2 found it at the library in this, relatively recently illustrated edition and tonight, while Exile #2 is out, I read the first few stories to the three who listened with rapt attention, always asking for another...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Day 5.251: Who shot the shooter?

The kids were off school for Rosh Hashanah today. Shana Tova to all those celebrating.

For me it was a work day and for everyone else it was a chance to catch up on appointments. Exile #3 visited the orthodontist and E5N1 had his annual physical.  Verdict: he's doing fine!

For a large part of the day he was wielding the Fisher Price camera.  He has a critical eye and immediately deletes shots he's not happy with.  As a result, the camera has a rather compelling record of his day by the end (I think the one above was taken by Exile #3):

And yes, he had to have a vaccination at his physical - he wasn't so happy about that - so it was his pediatrician that did it!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Day 5.250: Recent (random) things

I'm feeling a bit off-colour this evening, so here are some random things that caught my eye and were caught by my camera, but (as far as I recall) have not made it onto the blog since.

We saw a few of these in Alexandria Bay - sometimes our family life feels like this (without the actual beatings you understand):

Why is it that the only thing that's allowed to have curves in the Empire State Plaza is the concrete?

Pretzel-eating size restrictions?:

And onward into the week!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Day 5.249: Fall Festival

Although NPR has been telling us that this is the last full weekend of summer (the equinox falls during next weekend and ushers in autumn), it was the Five Rivers Fall Festival today.

Exile #3 had offered to help out at the ever-popular craft tables again, so she had a busy afternoon there.  The rest of us were busy too - first elsewhere, but then Exile #2, E5N1 and I went over there to look around, enjoy some of the activities and collect Exile #3 at the end of her volunteering stint.

There was an opportunity to look around the brand-new school-program building.  It's a very nice space and was proudly advertising its environmentally-conscious building materials (appropriately enough).  The green-roof is yet to be planted (they had a sample), but otherwise, it looks ready for action!

Meanwhile E5N1 caught a plastic fish with a real fishing line and did some craft (some assisted by his sister) and I admired the giant plastic fish at the fish-printing table.

Then it was a quick exit (via the used-books stall) to collect Exile #4 from a birthday party.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Day 5.247: Car feature innovation

This is not about our new car - this feature was in a rental I had for a few days.

I noticed this between the two front seats.

But I thought, "Surely if I put my drink(s) in there they will fall over?"  (It even looks like it's happened before.)

But look - they thought of that! Slide the divider across and...

"But wait! My cups are not that big!"

It's OK - just turn the fancy knob and ...

"No - one is small, but the other is a large!"

It's OK - relax, they've got it covered (with the third position on the switch):

The most ridiculous feature ever - or have you seen better?